High School: Rockwall-Heath

Jovan Hernadez’s ascent up the pitcher’s mound Friday clearly represented what Rockwall-Heath’s baseball team had worked for the last four years to achieve.

“It was like reaching the summit of a mountain,” Heath coach Greg Harvey said. “We were finally where we’ve been working to go.”

Hernandez’s complete-game, four-hit effort was more than enough to secure Rockwall-Heath’s first baseball state championship Friday at Round Rock’s Dell Diamond. Heath routed North Texas neighbor, Cleburne, 10-1 in the final 4A game of the season.

The win brought back a 4A title to the Metroplex for the first time since 2002.

Hernandez also had a team-high three RBIs on two hits, including a home run, in addition to his stellar pitching effort.

“Jovan went out and threw just an absolute amazing game. He did exactly what we needed him to do. He really just controlled the game from the mound.”

Hernandez’s third-inning homer brought in two RBIs, scoring Clayton Rasbeary after his inning-opening double.

Heath first baseman Timbo Duncan lead his team in hits, going three-for-three with two RBIs.

“We just pounded the ball all night long and all the way up and down the lineup, we had some big hits,” Harvey said.

Heath finished its state championship season 36-9. Rockwall’s annual Fourth of July parade will feature the newly-crowned state champions.

Arlington Martin falls to Houston Cypress Ranch, 6-0

The 5A state title will remain in southern Texas after Arlington Martin was blanked by Houston Cypress Ranch at Dell Diamond on Friday.

Cy Ranch starter Grant Slaughter went the distance, throwing a three-hit, eight-strikeout gem.

Cy Ranch second baseman Bryce Stark drove in a team-high two RBIs with one hit.

Cy Ranch will face College Station A&M Consolidated on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. for the 5A state title.
It took Rockwall-Heath three straight trips to the regional finals to earn the chance to travel to Round Rock in quest of a state title.

Having shaken that weight off their back, the Hawks can focus on the success of their first trip to the UIL state baseball tournament in school history.

“It’s something we’ve been working for all year long and we’ve finally got over the hump of Round 5, but we’re ready to get back to work,” Rockwall-Heath coach Greg Harvey said.

Now it is up to Rockwall-Heath to break another streak weighing down Dallas-area baseball teams – a 10-year run without a Class 4A state championship.

Plano West was the last area team to celebrate a state championship, beating Southlake Carroll for the Class 5A crown in 2008. However, 2002 was the last time a Metroplex team won it all in 4A when Southlake Carroll, then a classification lower, beat Corpus Christi Calallen 11-4 at Dell Diaomond.

“It’s something that’s kind of strange to me because the level of competition in North Texas is so strong," Harvey said. "We’re just going to go try and win the semifinal game and if we do it would be great to bring it back to North Texas. It would be great to break the streak.”

Rockwall-Heath (34-9) faces Montgomery (29-13) in a semifinal matchup at Dell Diamond on Thursday at 4 p.m. Austin Lake Travis (33-10) faces Cleburne (29-10) at 7 p.m. in the other semifinal.

Hawks ace Jake Thompson will get the start just days after he was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the second round of the MLB draft (91st overall). Thompson has made a verbal commitment to play for TCU.

Harvey said Thompson would wait until after the state tournament to make his decision to go pro or play for the Horned Frogs.

If Jovan Hernadez is not needed to pitch in the semifinal game and Rockwall-Heath wins, Harvey said he’d give the nod to the senior for the state final.

Harvey said his team would attend 2A semifinals at Dell Diamond on Wednesday night to get a feel for the state tournament vibe before Thursday’s game.

Regardless, it’s a special trip for the Hawks that has been three years in the making.

“We’re excited, but ready to go back to work now,” Harvey said.

Arl. Martin, Rock.-Heath reach state in baseball

June, 3, 2012
6/03/12
4:21
PM CT
Arlington Martin, Rockwall-Heath and Cleburne were pushed to the limit before winning their best-of-three regional final series to clinch spots in the UIL state baseball tournament.

Martin beat Southlake Carroll 5-2 in Saturday's Game 3 of the Class 5A Region 1 finals. That came after Carroll won Game 2 earlier in the week 2-0 to force the deciding game.

Rockwall-Heath bounced back from a 1-0 blanking against Frisco Wakeland in Game 2 of the Class 4A Region 2 finals to win the clincher 9-2 on Saturday.

Rockwall-Heath will be joined in the 4A state tournament by Cleburne, which beat Waco Midway in three games in the Region 1 finals.

Here is the the UIL baseball state tournament schedule:

WEDNESDAY

1A SEMIFINALS, Round Rock's Dell Diamond
9 a.m. - Price Carlisle (25-2) vs. Fayetteville (19-6)
Noon - Stamford (23-1) vs. Dodd City (27-7)

2A SEMIFINALS, Round Rock's Dell Diamond
4 p.m. - Brock (33-1) vs. Bushland (30-6-1)
7 p.m. - Elkhart (36-4) vs. Jarrell (25-4)

3A SEMIFINALS, UT's Disch-Falk Field
1 p.m. - Sweeny (31-2) vs. West (31-8)
4 p.m. - Robinson (29-2) vs. Texarkana Pleasant Grove (33-5)

THURSDAY

1A FINAL, Round Rock's Dell Diamond
9 a.m. - Price Carlisle/Fayetteville winner vs. Stamford/Dodd City winner

2A FINAL, Round Rock's Dell Diamond
Noon - Brock/Bushland winner vs. Elkhart/Jarrell winner

4A SEMIFINALS, Round Rock's Dell Diamond
4 p.m. - Rockwall-Heath (34-9) vs. Montgomery (29-13)
7 p.m. - Austin Lake Travis (33-10) vs. Cleburne (29-10)

3A FINAL, UT's Disch-Falk Field
6:30 p.m. - Sweeny/West winner vs. Robinson/Texarkana Pleasant Grove winner

FRIDAY

5A SEMIFINALS, Round Rock's Dell Diamond
Noon - Arlington Martin (36-5-1) vs. Houston Cypress Ranch (30-8)
3 p.m. - Corpus Christi Carroll (32-4) vs. College Station A&M Consolidated (28-11)

4A FINAL
7 p.m. - Rockwall-Heath/Montgomery winner vs. Austin Lake Travis/Cleburne winner

SATURDAY

5A FINAL, Round Rock's Dell Diamond
11:30 a.m. - Arlington Martin/Houston Cypress Ranch winner vs. Corpus Christi Carroll/College Station A&M Consolidated winner
MCKINNEY, Texas – Frisco Wakeland’s performance in the baseball playoffs can only be described as magic by coach Barry Rose.

All but one of Wakeland’s best-of-three series have needed all three games to be decided, and the regional final will be no different after a 1-0 Wakeland win over Rockwall-Heath in Game 2 on Friday.

Willie Schwanke carried his team on both sides of the ball, pitching a complete-game, three-hit shutout against one of the most solid lineups in the area. Schwanke added a third-inning double that resulted in the only run of the game, thanks to an RBI single by Justin Swanner.

“He’s a competitor and when our backs are against the wall, he’s the guy we want on the bump,” Rose said. “Just a great mindset going out. He thinks he’s going to win and if it’s a one-on-one battle with the batter, he thinks he’s going to win.”

Schwanke said he had trouble finding his pitching touch in the opening innings, allowing a walk in the first and a single in the second, but settled into a groove of two, 1-2-3 innings in the third and fourth. He did not allow a runner past first after the second inning.

Rockwall-Heath coach Greg Harvey elected to go with Jake Baxter on the mound after an 8-1 win in Game 1 on Thursday, saving Heath’s ace, Jake Thompson, for a Game 3 if necessary.

"(Baxter) deserved a win. We just ran into a tough pitcher,” Harvey said.

Wakeland now has the tough task of facing Thompson, who has either the MLB draft or a career at TCU in his near future, in Game 3, but Rose said he likes the luck in his team’s favor.

Rose won the coin toss after Friday’s game and selected to be visitors in the final game, hoping to ride the good vibes that come from the first-base dugout.

“They won last night over here,” Rose said. “We won tonight over here. I just have a feeling that I want to get up there and swing it first and get some momentum at the beginning of the game.”

Rose will give the starting pitching nod to Cameron Brockhoff for Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. finale at McKinney Boyd High School.

It will be just the second Game 3 that Heath has played during its playoff run, but the motivation of two consecutive regional final trips without a trip to Austin will drive the Hawks' efforts.

For Wakeland, Saturday will just be playoff business as usual.

“We’ve got some Game 3 magic going on, so we'll see if we can get some more tomorrow night,” Rose said.
Rockwall-Heath hopes the third time will be the charm in its quest for a state tournament berth.

This weekend marks the third straight regional final for the Hawks, who have failed to punch a ticket to Round Rock in any of their previous attempts.

It leaves the team with a sense of urgency that this is the year the Hawks must make it happen, coach Greg Harvey said, but that is all part of the everyday playoff grind.

“We feel comfortable where we’re at and we’re playing good baseball. I feel as good as this point as we ever have getting to this point. We just need to stay hot at bat and have good pitching.”

For the second time in three years, Heath faces another Dallas-area powerhouse, Frisco Wakeland, in the regional semifinals. Wakeland took that series easily, 2-0, on 14-6 and 12-3 wins.

Harvey has senior stars Jake Thompson and Jovan Hernandez again leading the pack with four years of experience under their belts.

Both hit for outstanding average and power, even with the new BBCOR bats, and Thompson is always a challenge to hitters from the mound.

Wakeland, too, has veteran returners who are very similar to the Hawk tandem in Willie Schwanke and Hayden Nixon, both outstanding starting pitchers.

Schwanke is also a threat at the plate, leading the team in average and RBIs.

“I think they are both aces and we have our work cut out for us no matter who we face,” Harvey said. “Certainly Schwanke is the catalyst of their offense. He’s their RBI and batting average leader and is a dangerous weapon in their lineup.”

The best-of-three series runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday (if necessary) at 7:30 p.m. at McKinney Boyd High School.

Arlington Martin takes early lead in 5A region final

Arlington Martin’s all-around depth has already helped the Warriors take a 1-0 lead over Southlake Carroll in their best-of-three 5A baseball regional final.

One piece of Martin’s deep pitching staff, Collin Day, threw a gem and set his team up for a 7-3 win at TCU’s Lupton Stadium.

That enables Martin coach Curt Culbertson to start Warrior ace Turner Larkins in either Game 2 or 3 (if necessary) with plenty of able arms behind him for support.

However, Southlake also has its ace Tyler Alexander ready to throw Thursday or Friday.

The Dragons can also rely on the state championship experience that top hitter and quarterback Kenny Hill gained in his journey to a 5A Division I state football championship last fall.

The series continues Thursday and Friday (if necessary) at 7:30 p.m. at Lupton Stadium.
Earlier this season in Round Rock, home of the state baseball tournament, Flower Mound Marcus pitcher Colin Poché displayed the superior ability that has made a believer of his coach.

The senior ace limited a historically strong Coppell to four hits in Marcus' 2-1 victory.

Those who weren't there to witness Poché's talent that day may also not be aware of his 0.00 ERA through 57 innings pitched.

“You’ll most likely see him pitching on TV one day,” Marcus coach Dustin Sykora.

Poché has collected six wins in his senior year and has seen opposing runners cross the plate during his time on the mound. However, all runs under his watch have been unearned.

Sykora said his pitching star has everything you can ask for in a left-handed pitcher, including a tall frame that he’s grown into during his time at Marcus.

Poché has committed to Arkansas, but Sykora believes he won't set foot on campus with major league aspirations looming in the pitcher's immediate future.

Crazy finish for District 10-4A

Always strong Highland Park began district play already on the ropes. The Scots picked up their four 10-4A losses quickly, sitting at 1-4 through the first five district games.

However, the Scots haven't lost since falling to McKinney North and even knocked off previously nationally ranked Rockwall-Heath twice.

Rockwall-Heath sits in control of the district at 10-3 but could lose its grip to either Highland Park or Rockwall if it loses its final game of the season against Wylie East.

Both Highland Park and Rockwall have one game remaining as well.

Arlington Martin remains only DFW Fab 50 team

Martin (24-2-1) gained ground in this week’s ESPNHS Fab 50 poll, moving into the No. 33 spot after a big district win over state-ranked Weatherford. Martin previously sat in the No. 46 spot a week prior.

Leading the Texas pack is Corpus Christi Calallen at No. 7, followed by Corpus Christi Carroll at No. 21 and Deer Park at No. 25.
ESPNU 150 watch list defensive end Jay Arnold chose Texas A&M for his college career Monday, making him A&M's 14th recruit of the class of 2013, according to ESPN Recruiting Nation Midlands recruiting coordinator Damon Sayles.

The 6-foot 4, 255-pound end from Rockwall-Heath joined the the 2013 edition of the Aggie Swag Movement over offers from Baylor, Northwestern, Tulsa, SMU and Ole Miss.

Here is Sayles' account of Arnold's selection (Insider only).

Sayles also took a look at the talent surrounding standout Southlake Carroll quarterback Kenny Hill as the Dragons look to defend the 5A state title next fall, featuring Tanner Jacobson, Cam Manning, Ray Crockett and A.J. Ezzard.

Here is the Insider-only look at those returning Dragons.

High school baseball in 2012 has a whole new look and sound.

Gone are the bloated offensive numbers and high-pitched pings that had been the norm since metal bats made their way into the game in the 1970s.

With new "deader" bats now the standard, emphasis has shifted from power to strategy ... from long ball to small ball.

SPORTS SCIENCE Video
A look at the science behind the BBCOR bats now being used in Texas high school baseball.

Watch Video
“This is my third year as a head coach here and this is the first year I’ve called a hit-and-run,” South Grand Prairie coach Dennis Pelfrey said. “Typically we run and steal bases and a not worry about sacrifice bunting or hitting-and-running. This year we’ve called more sacrifice bunts than I ever have and more hit-and-runs that I’ve never called before.”

The bats now outlawed from the high school game fell under a standard known as Ball Exit Speed Ratio. For a bat to be eligible for use, it needed the BESR stamp of approval, stating that the exit speed of the ball off the bat, depending on the speed of the pitch, was not too great for fielders to have a chance to react.

Safety issues still arose under the former standard, resulting in the NCAA and eventually the National Federation of State High School Associations to change to a new standard -- Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution. As part of the NFHS adopting the BBCOR standard, the UIL and TAPPS followed suit for the 2012 season.

BBCOR, in laymen’s terms, measures the trampoline effect of the bat as the ball makes contact. The standard governs the amount of energy lost in contact at a measure of 0.5, which is just slightly greater than that of a wooden bat.

Easton, one of the top metal bat manufacturers, offers this explanation on its website:
In the past, when a pitched ball made contact with an alloy or composite bat, the barrel would flex inward ever so slightly and the ball would retain some of its energy resulting in farther hits. Wood bats don’t have as much “give” to them and the ball loses much of its energy upon impact. Like BESR, the BBCOR standard ensures that non-wood bats perform more comparably to wood bats in an attempt to level the playing field.


“There’s definitely not as many cheap home runs and cheap hits,” Rockwall-Heath coach Greg Harvey said . “Those are now caught. It makes you focus on the fundamentals of the game.”

The NCAA was first to implement mandatory use of BBCOR bats in 2011 and offers the best statistical case study of the comparability of BBCOR bats to wood bats.

In 2011, the first season of BBCOR bat use, the batting average of all NCAA Division I schools fell from .305 to .282, the lowest it had been since 1976, the third year metal bats were used in the NCAA. Scoring was down from 6.98 runs per game in 2010 to 5.58, which is a low that hadn’t been seen since 1975. Home runs per game finished at a 0.52 clip, down from 0.94 from 2010 and also the lowest since 1975.

[+] EnlargeHigh School baseball bats
Travis L. Brown/ESPNDallas.comWhe the NCAA started using BBCOR bats in 2011, overall batting averages fell from .305 in 2010 to .282.
Through around 10 games for most Division I teams this year, the nationwide batting average was .267.

Although the sample size is smaller at the high school level, the downward trend in offense has been apparent.

For example, Rockwall-Heath featured two of the area’s top hitters in Jovan Hernandez and Jake Thompson, who helped the Hawks blast 48 home runs in 41 games in 2011. With Hernandez and Thompson both back for their senior seasons, the Hawks hit 12 home runs through their first 20 games of 2012.

Coaches say they're willing to scratch out runs one at a time rather than risk stranding runners while attempting to put up a crooked number in a big inning. That means more hit-and-run attempts, a willingness to give up outs to move up runners and utilizing squeeze bunts to push across runs.

“Is it going to be a 2-1 game or a 9-7 game?” Harvey said. “If we’re in a game where it doesn’t look like we’re going to score a lot of runs, we’re going to look for a run. Smaller innings are a bigger part of the game now.”

On the converse, the skipper in the opposite dugout must have his team defensively prepared to handle strategic hitting.

Highland Park’s Fred Oliver crafted a Hall of Fame coaching career by implementing the fundamentals of small ball into his strategy even when BESR bats were allowed. His focus in the dawn of the BBCOR era is preparing his players to defend against the bunt with greater consistency.

[+] EnlargeZach Williamson
Travis L. Brown/ESPNDallas.comMcKinney North's Zach Williamson lays down a bunt, a play that's more common at Texas high school games this year because of the new bats.
“I’ve seen a lot more bunting, so you have to be prepared for that with a good bunt defense,” Oliver said “They are just lower scoring games, like 4-3, 2-1 and 1-0. We’ve lost seven games this year by one run, so I think it has affected the game.”

Players around the area have noticed the changes and have been forced to make adjustments, big and small, for the new bats. Those adjustments range from completely changing a swing to not relying on the sound of the bat for judging whether good contact was made.

“It’s going to bring out the best hitters and helping to show what they’re going to do the next years in college,” said Mansfield Timberview center fielder Chuck Taylor, a UT-Arlington recruit and major league prospect.

Current San Jacinto Junior College player Justin Byrd spent his high school years in Dallas under the BESR standard, leading the area in hitting in 2010 with just under a .700 batting average at First Baptist Academy. He said he experienced some growing pains with the new bats in college last year.

“The spring rolled around and threw us for a loop,” Byrd said “Early in the season you still get the guys, and I did it myself, who tried to drive it out of the park and you come up short with these new bats. You can tell a difference in a good 10 to 15 feet. Balls I crushed that were no-doubters with the old bats were getting caught at the warning track.”

While hitters are being thrown for a loop, pitchers have been able to thrive.

Oliver said his pitchers have gained confidence knowing they no longer have to nibble around the corners. They can, instead, go after hitters, aggressively hitting different spots in the strike zone.

“You see guys that get jammed on inside pitches in years past who hit doubles down the line or even balls that leave the yard,” Pelfrey agreed. “Now you’re seeing actions like a ball would break a bat if they were using wooden bats in the big leagues. It’s the same type of actions where the ball doesn’t go anywhere.”

Pitchers with less-than-breathtaking velocity but above-average accuracy have become more valued.

“The guy throwing the ball in the low to mid 80s with control is a special commodity,” Oliver said.

Overall, coaches agreed that the new thud of BBCOR bats takes the game back to the way it was played when they were novices in the study of baseball strategy, which is a refreshing change in a time where young players can be more worried about the chicks who dig the long ball than the basics of the game.

"Our coaches have preached all season how the game has changed more drastically this year than it ever has for high schoolers," McKinney North outfielder Heath Beasley said. "Small ball is back for high school ball."

Rockwall-Heath duo on all-state baseball team

March, 5, 2012
3/05/12
1:32
PM CT
Rockwall-Heath's catcher and ace pitcher are among the area players named to the ESPNHS preseason Texas all-state baseball team.

Jovan Hernandez, who tied the state record with 42-game hit streak last year, and Jake Thompson, who registered 131 strikeouts, represent Rockwall-Heath on the team.

Other Dallas-Fort Worth players named to the squad are Argyle shortstop Austin Aune, Rockwall shortstop/outfielder Spencer Edwards, Keller Fossil Ridge pitcher Sheldon Neuse and Fort Worth Southwest Christian pitcher Teddy Stankiewicz.

Click here to see the full team, including a list of other top players. Access the teams from all 50 states here.

Rockwall-Heath ranked 19th in baseball FAB 50

February, 13, 2012
2/13/12
12:20
PM CT
The preseason ESPNHS POWERADE FAB 50 national baseball rankings have been released, and Rockwall-Heath is the only area team to make it.

The Hawks, who are led by sluggers Jovan Hernandez and Jake Thompson, are ranked 19th.

The state of Texas has six teams in the top 50, third most behind California (nine) and Florida (seven).

Rockwall teams head east instead of DeSoto

February, 2, 2012
2/02/12
4:27
PM CT
NORTH RICHLAND HILLS, Texas -- North Mesquite, Mesquite Horn and Mesquite High will continue their ties to East Texas foes Longview and Tyler Lee for the fifth straight realignment.

This time, the Mesquite schools will be joined by Rockwall and Rockwall-Heath for a seven-team District 12-5A. The Rockwall schools are moving up from Class 4A.

Rockwall was a part of the East Texas district along with the Mesquite schools in 2004-05.

The last two realignments included DeSoto in the East Texas district, but the Eagles got a reprieve this time.

DeSoto athletic director Pam Deborde said the news of a move to District 7-5A to join neighbors Cedar Hill and Duncanville brought a lot of excitement to Eagles athletes on Thursday.

“Now our kids can play teams they grew up playing against and in some cases played on the same teams with,’’ Deborde said. “Our seniors are upset that this didn’t happen in time for them.’’

Mesquite athletic director Steve Bragg was unfazed.

“We’re used to going to East Texas,’’ said Bragg. “We’ve developed some very good friendships. Financially, it is a strain on our school district, but we understand that somebody has to go. Nobody likes to travel but somebody has to. And we’re looking forward to working with the Rockwall schools.’’

Deborde said DeSoto never formed a rivalry in its present district.

“It was time for us, we served our four years,’’ she said.
GAMES OF THE YEAR

Class 5A: Southlake Carroll vs. Dallas Skyline

No high school game this season was raised to the attention of the public like the 5A Division I state semifinal between Southlake Carroll and Dallas Skyline at SMU’s Ford Stadium.

Carroll trailed the arguably more talented Skyline squad the entire game but managed to work the deficit to three with just over a minute left on a 3-yard dive by quarterback Kenny Hill. The play was made possible by a pass interference call on Skyline that remains one of many points of contention to the Skyline faithful.

2011 FOOTBALL AWARDS
Dec. 27: Coaches of the year
Dec. 28: Games of the year
Dec. 29: Newcomers of the year
Dec. 30: Best of the rest
Jan. 2: Defensive POYs
Jan. 3: Offensive POYs
Jan. 4: MVPs
Ray Crockett then made the most controversial play of the game, recovering the onside kick in the air, directly over the 50-yard line which was the required 10 yards the kick had to travel.

Two plays later, Hill completed the comeback, running in a 35-yard rush for the game-winning touchdown, bringing the score to 28-24.

During the play, a fox ran through the heard of players storming down the field, toward the grass hill at Ford Stadium. It escaped the Carroll crowd up the hill and out the gate, but it didn’t escape the imaginations of the Dragons. Carroll fans showed up to the 5A Division I state final with stuffed foxes as a show of support and a cheerleader dressed as a fox appeared on the sideline as a sidekick to Carroll’s traditional dragon mascot.

The outcry of Skyline fans toward the officiating in the game was heard by the media, local and national, as soon as the game ended and the UIL’s voicemail boxes were filled to capacity over the weekend.

Even Dallas City Council member Dwaine Caraway issued a statement questioning the calls in the game.

Regardless of the debate, Carroll rode it’s “Sliver Fox Swag” to a 36-29 win over Fort Bend Hightower in the state finals to claim the school’s eighth football title.

Class 4A: Highland Park vs. Rockwall-Heath

Rockwall-Heath’s defense stood strong against three straight Highland Park runs up the middle from inside Rockwall-Heath five, but Highland Park running back Preston Miller would not be denied a fourth time, leading his team to a 31-30 overtime district win.

Rockwall-Heath had scored on the first possession of overtime on an 11-yard rush by Rico Henderson, but the point-after try wobbled low and left, hitting the upright and bouncing back onto the field.

Highland Park was able to work the ball down to the Rockwall-Heath 5, and until Miller’s fourth-down, second-effort push into the end zone, it appeared Heath’s defense would render the missed PAT useless.

But Miller did his job and burst into the end zone, putting the pressure on Highland Park kicker Nick Rose.

Rose overcame his nerves and split the uprights for the win, which would ultimately give Highland Park the District 10-4A title after handing Rockwall-Heath its only district loss of the season.

Sherman stuns Rockwall-Heath with huge rally

November, 26, 2011
11/26/11
6:32
PM CT
DENTON, Texas -- Sherman needed one big-time rally to upset Waxahachie last week.

Against Rockwall-Heath on Saturday, the Bearcats needed two.

Having already coughed up the lead it had taken after rallying from down 19, Sherman staged a second comeback when JT Luper scored on a 31-yard reception with 35 seconds left in the game to give the Bearcats a 28-25 win over Rockwall-Heath at a cold and blustery Apogee Stadium.

UIL PLAYOFFS
STAFF PICKS
Bi-district »   Area round »
Region semis »   Region finals »
State semis »   Finals »   Totals »

STATE BRACKETS
Class 5A: Div. I | Div. II
Class 4A: Div. I | Div. II

REGION BRACKETS
5A Division I: Reg. 1 | Reg. 2
5A Division II: Reg. 1 | Reg. 2
4A Division I: Reg. 1 | Reg. 2
4A Division II: Reg. 1 | Reg. 2

Sherman (10-3) advances to play Tyler John Tyler (10-3) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at SMU in the 4A Division I Region II finals.

Rockwall-Heath (11-2) gave up a 19-0 lead during a six-minute span from the end of the third quarter and into the fourth, but the Hawks responded with a brilliant 80-yard drive capped by quarterback Cody Court's 2-yard touchdown run that gave his team a 25-20 lead with 1:25 left in the game.

"We knew we were going to go down the field and score because we've done it so many times before," said Heath head coach Mickey Moss. "But they made some good plays down there at the end."

Sherman's offense struggled throughout but stepped up when it matter most. The Bearcats didn't even need a minute to reclaim the lead as quarterback Gus Daniel completed passes of 15, 13 and 31 yards to get Sherman in the end zone with 35 seconds to spare.

"We just had to block up front because Heath is really good," said Sherman head coach Gary Kinne. "Our receivers, Luper had an unbelievable catch. He did it all himself."

The wind played a part in not only giving the Hawks the lead, but also helping them cough it up. With Heath leading 6-0, two bad Sherman punts into the wind gave Heath a short field that it converted into Court touchdown passes to Alan Wilcoxson (8 yards) and Amaris Fields (14 yards).

But things unraveled quickly. Following Fields' touchdown, Sherman's Ryan Reid returned the ensuing kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown to close the third quarter, cutting Heath's lead to 19-6.

"It sparked us," Kinne said. "I couldn't be more proud of him. He shut down half the field at cornerback for most of the game."

When the teams switched sides, the wind that had aided Heath in the third quarter became its worst enemy. Heath set up a 3-yard touchdown run by Luper after its punt into the wind went for minus-15 yards, putting Sherman at the Heath 4-yard line.

Not wanting to punt into the wind again after a three-and-out on their next drive, the Hawks went for it on fourth-and-3 and came up short, again giving Sherman a short field that Daniel quickly converted into a 9-yard touchdown pass to Joseph Harvey.

Six minutes after they trailed by three scores, the Bearcats took a 20-19 lead.

"The wind was definitely a factor on both sides," Moss said.

Neither team got much going in the first half. Sherman threw three interceptions in the half while Heath had two of its three turnovers on downs before halftime, in addition to a fumble.

Heath finally opened the scoring with 55 seconds left in the second quarter when defensive end Jordan Points, lined up at fullback, got into the end zone on a wheel route.

With the wind in its face in the third quarter, Sherman just tried to buy time until it was going for the other end zone.

"They had a lot to do with it -- they have a good football team," Kinne said of Sherman's struggles in the first half. "They picked him [Daniel] off early and we learned what we can and can't do. We just waited to get the wind so we could throw the ball downfield."

Turnovers key for Rockwall-Heath vs. Sherman

November, 23, 2011
11/23/11
9:38
PM CT
ROCKWALL-HEATH (11-1) vs. SHERMAN (9-3)
2 p.m. Saturday at UNT's Apogee Stadium


UIL PLAYOFFS
STAFF PICKS
Bi-district »   Area round »
Region semis »   Region finals »
State semis »   Finals »   Totals »

STATE BRACKETS
Class 5A: Div. I | Div. II
Class 4A: Div. I | Div. II

REGION BRACKETS
5A Division I: Reg. 1 | Reg. 2
5A Division II: Reg. 1 | Reg. 2
4A Division I: Reg. 1 | Reg. 2
4A Division II: Reg. 1 | Reg. 2

What: Class 4A Division I Region II semifinals game

When we saw them last: Rockwall-Heath made easy work of Dallas Kimball, 38-6, on the shoulders of freshman running back Rico Henderson. Sherman looked impressive in taking down Waxahachie, 38-35, with help from two fourth-quarter turnovers by the Indians.

Last in the playoffs: Sherman’s season came to an end in the area round at the hands of Trevone Boykin and West Mesquite, 55-34, at Cowboys Stadium. Rockwall-Heath made a quick exit in 2009, losing to Frisco Liberty 49-35 in the bi-district round.

When they last met: These two met in the first game of the 2009 season with Sherman coming out on top 40-31. Sherman made a late rally, scoring 33 points in the second half to blow past the Hawks. Sherman nearly doubled up over Rockwall-Heath in total yards with 429.

What’s at stake: The winner will play Tyler John Tyler (10-3) in the 4A state quarterfinals.

Key matchup: Rockwall-Heath must not turn the ball over. Sherman’s six-game win streak is due mostly to its plus-12 differential through its last four games of the season, including two key turnovers at the end of the area-round game against Waxahachie. Rockwall-Heath is a plus-15 for the entire season but has many multiple turnover games that became washes from an equal amount of opponent turnovers. The Hawks also got a boost from a plus-5 turnover game against Rockwall earlier this year. Rockwall-Heath has suffered from fumbles throughout the season but recovered many of its own.

Players to watch: Rockwall-Heath’s biggest playmaker has to be WR Amaris Fields. Heath will run a constant stream of running plays, setting up one play-action pass play to free him up past the defensive secondary for a home-run touchdown pass from quarterback Cody Court. Fields is also a threat in the kick return game. After splitting time with Torey Long, quarterback Gus Daniel separated himself as Sherman’s starter, throwing for 11 touchdowns as a traditional pocket passer. Once the ball leaves his hands, it’s spread out among a platoon of receivers and rushers. WR J.T. Luper leads the team in scoring with seven touchdowns.

Prediction: Sherman 34, Rockwall-Heath 27

Freshman RB leads Rockwall-Heath past Kimball

November, 18, 2011
11/18/11
11:27
PM CT
GARLAND, Texas – After seeing Rico Henderson's work ethic during summer workouts, Rockwall-Heath head coach Mickey Moss decided the freshman could help his team this year -- as a defensive back.

After seeing him in a game, it didn't take long for Moss to move Henderson to his natural position -- running back.

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That decision continues to pay dividends for Rockwall-Heath as Henderson rushed for 86 yards and two touchdowns to power the Hawks to a 38-6 win over Dallas Kimball on Friday in a Class 4A Division I area-round game at Homer B. Johnson Stadium.

Heath (11-1) advances to play Sherman at 2 p.m. Saturday at Denton's Fouts Field in the 4A-I Region 2 semifinals.

"Rico does a great job of making people miss," Moss said. "I've never seen a kid like that that has that kind of instinct and vision. He's such a natural running back. I can't wait till the offseason when he gets some speed and strength. He's going to be a great one."

Henderson has become the centerpiece of Heath's run-based offense, and he plays wise beyond his years. He has natural instinct for finding holes and the athleticism to get through them.

And he did against a Kimball defensive front that's loaded with talent, including defensive tackle Justin Manning, who will likely be one of the area's top recruits in the class of 2013.

"I'm just glad we won," Henderson said of his performance. "I still have three years after this. I'm going to continue to work and get better."

The freshman got Heath on the board midway through the first quarter with a 1-yard touchdown run, but Kimball answered with a lengthy drive that ended with a 6-yard touchdown run by quarterback Jaalen Adkins.

Heath regained the lead with a 16-yard pitch-and-catch from quarterback Cody Court to receiver Shyon Motlagh in the second quarter, but the game turned on the Hawks' next possession.

On the first play of the drive, Heath receiver Amaris Fields took a reverse 65 yards for a touchdown to give Heath a 21-6 lead.

"Our offensive coordinator, he calls trick plays 'down wasters,' so I was completely shocked he'd run a reverse," Moss said.

Kimball (9-3) never got going against Heath's defense. Using mostly five-wide receiver sets, Kimball looked out of rhythm in the passing game and its running game never found consistency.

The unit committed two costly turnovers -- a fumble at the beginning of the second quarter and interception at the end of the first half. Heath converted both turnovers into touchdowns en route to building a 28-6 halftime lead.

After the interception, Kimball completed just three passes for the rest of the game and finished with 192 yards of offense.

"The defense, wow," Henderson said. "I don't know what to say. All the seniors we have keep us going."

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